Judicial Watch Seeks Texas Supreme Court Review of Lawsuit for Information on Qatari Government’s Funding of Texas A&M, a Public University
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed petition for review with the Supreme Court of Texas regarding a lawsuit on behalf of its client Zachor Legal Institute under the Texas Public Information Act (TPIA), seeking records about potential influence by the Qatar government’s funding of certain Texas A&M University programs at its campus in Education City, Al Rayyan, Qatar (Zachor Legal Institute, v. Qatar Foundation For Education, Science And Community Development (No. 21-0542))
Zachor Legal Institute is a U.S.-based advocacy group dedicated to combatting the spread of anti-Semitism. Zachor made two requests under the Texas Public Information Act for information about the funding or donations made to Texas A&M by the government of Qatar and agencies and subdivisions of the government of Qatar. Qatar controversially has aligned itself with Islamic terrorists and extremists, which has placed it at odds with the United States, Israel and other U.S. allies in the Middle East.
Zachor began asking two years ago for information about Qatari funding of Texas A&M research and how Texas A&M, a public university, was able to establish a degree-conferring campus in Qatar without the Texas Legislature’s permission or involvement. In 2003 Texas A&M established a campus in Qatar that now grants Bachelor of Science degrees in Chemical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Petroleum Engineering. Since 2011, advanced degrees have been offered in Chemical Engineering.
Texas A&M at Qatar has awarded more than 1000 degrees since 2007.
In October 2018, Qatar filed suit against the Texas attorney general to prevent the disclosure of its funding information. On April 29, 2019, Judicial Watch filed a petition to intervene on behalf of Zachor.
Judicial Watch contends that a key issue in this case is the proper interpretation of the TPIA [Texas Public Information Act], an important statute governing the public’s right to access public information. Judicial Watch asks the court to interpret whether the act waives the Attorney General’s immunity from being sued – not by a governmental body seeking to withhold information but by a private entity (Qatar Foundation) wishing to have public information kept secret – or “whether the governmental body that holds the information and has the duty to release it” must be the party filing the lawsuit.
The Texas Attorney General ruled that Texas A&M could withhold only the donors’ identifying information but must release the other requested information. The Qatar Foundation filed a suit challenging the Attorney General’s opinion. The Honorable Karin Crump, presiding Judge of the 200th Judicial District Court of Travis County, dismissed the Qatar Foundation’s claims on jurisdictional grounds leaving the Attorney General’s opinion intact. The Qatar Foundation appealed to the Texas Court of Appeals, Third District, at Austin, Texas. The court reversed the district court’s jurisdictional order and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. Zachor is now asking the Texas Supreme Court to grant its petition for review and render judgment that Qatar Foundation’s lawsuit to keep this public information secret is jurisdictionally barred.
As Judicial Watch points out in its petition, the U.S. Congressional Research Service has found serious issues worthy of investigation with Qatar’s involvement in discrimination and terrorism:
The Qatari government has been identified as a vocal purveyor of anti-Semitism and promoter of extremist terrorist groups. The merits of this case ask whether the Qatar Foundation (a private entity) will be allowed to use the (Texas Public Information Act) to preclude public scrutiny of its involvement with and influence on a public university.
“The Qatari government has been misusing our nation’s courts to hide the details of its controversial funding of Texas A & M University. We hope the Texas Supreme Court puts a stop to this,” said Tom Fitton, President of Judicial Watch.
Marc Greendorfer, President of Zachor Legal Institute said, “When Zachor first submitted the public records request, we were concerned that foreign governments were using United States’ university campuses as breeding grounds for hate and indoctrination. With the dramatic and rapid explosion of Antisemitism and anti-American unrest that have spread on campuses since we submitted the request, our concerns are only amplified. We urge the Texas Supreme Court to allow Zachor, and the people of the State of Texas, to see what Qatar is trying to hide.”